Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Piazzolla, it takes one to tango

The tango, and the related milonga, are never far away in the compositions of Argentine's Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), with Villa-Lobos and Ginastera the most important composer of South America. His intriguing mixture of the ancient and almost banal dance forms with jazz and classical elements makes for a completely unique personal sound. The Naxos CD I selected to introduce him combines three varying and interesting compositions by this still undervalued composer. The early Sinfonia Buenos Aires in three movements caused a stir with its use of tango melodies, but it did win him a scholarship to study in France. The Four Seasons is a tango cycle orchestrated by Leonid Desyatnikov - its theme and setting (violin and orchestra) make a comparison with Vivaldi logical if not quite valid. As good as these compositions are, the main gem on this record, and possibly the best composition in his oeuvre, is his fascinating concerto for bandoneon and orchestra - demonstrating that the composer himself was a virtuoso on this unusual instrument. Excellent performances by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under Giancarlo Guerrero, with soloists Daniel Binelli (bandoneon) and Tianwa Yang (violin). If your collection only allows one Piazzolla disc, make it this one. But he is well worth exploring beyond that.